Geriatronics Summit and AI.Society: How robotics can improve care

Health, Research, EVENTS, munich i |

How robotics can improve the daily lives of the elderly and their caregivers: These are the central topics that scientists will be addressing at the first Geriatronics Summit in Garmisch. Questions to the organizers of the event and scientific leaders of the research projects, Luis Figueredo and Abdeldjallil Naceri from MIRMI.

Luis, Geriatronics is still a young term in science. What is behind it?

Geriatronics is a new term coined to address the usage of robotics and mechatronics within geriatrics and gerontology, and in general for the care of our primary stakeholder elderly. The population is getting older and older, and at the same time we observe an increasing shortage of health care providers. Therefore, as scientists, we aim to bring robotics, artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art technological devices to help the elderly live independently for as long as possible. Geriatronics aims to help the elderly in three different applications: healthcare (e.g. rehabilitation), communication and dailylife activities. The focus is on so-called third agers, people who are older than 65 and thus in the third phase of life. According to the United Nations (UN), one in four people worldwide will belong to this group by 2025. Not least for this reason, the EU's Horizon 2021-2027 funding program also focuses on demographic changes and calling for assistive technologies for the elderlycare. Thus, this is a wake-up call that must be addressed adequately by researchers from interdisciplinary fields.

MIRMI is involved here, among others with projects X and Y. What is the difference?

Abdeldjallil : Project X is about developing and integrating the core technology, making necessary connections, and getting the technology up and running in a real-world scenario. Partners are very important here: For example, the Deutsches Museum is conducting technology evaluations and user studies aiming for training, and the partner companies TQ Systems and Franka Emika are helping us to develop the hardware and necessary technologies and interfaces. Project Y not only aims for developing innovative humanoid service robot application scenarios but also novel robotics hardware such as exoeskeletons and humanoid robotics, and at the same time put this core technology is in use to push the research limits beyond the state of the art. For example, we are already using the technology in a "futuristic apartment" where we study and evaluate how the  elderly people dailylife can function with the support of our technology whilst using this information to improve it. We are gradually evolving from controlled scenarios separated from humans to close interaction with machines. Ultimately, it is a synergistic concept in which one project supports the other.

The first Geriatronics Summit kicks off June 20. What is it supposed to do?

Luis: There are primarily four reasons why this conference will finally take place for the first time. Geriatronics is currently one of the most important topics in robotics – and will remain so for a long time to come (I.). However, the research area is still quite new. That's why it's important to bring together experts from research and industry to share and discuss new perspectives and ideas with like-minded peers (II.). In addition, our research must always go hand in hand with developments in society and its ethical ideas. Therefore, regulation and ethics are other important topics that will be addressed at our congress (III.). Finally, we are pleased to introduce the new generation of researchers (PhDs and MS students) to world-leader researchers in the field, and raise their interest to the topic. 

Many research areas are involved in the research ...

Abdeldjallil: Interdisciplinary researchers from difference fields such as robotics, AI, ethics, social science, psychology, medicine and healthcare, etc. are currently working on the above mentioned challenging problem. By doing so, we can ultimately bring our technology closer to our society and interact with humans in a realistic scenarios. To do that, we need the health care providers, the nurses, the doctors, mechanics, and medical, legal and ethical professionals. In one hand, for instance, we cannot simply develop assistive robotic solutions for which ethicists cannot give the green light afterwards. On the other hand, it makes no sense to develop assistive robotic solutions that turn out to be too complicated for the physician to use and practice during their dailywork checkups routines. Ultimately, the shorter – and best – path is to involve  stakeholder and researcher from different fields from the start.